Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back in Berkeley

What an amazing 10 days of work with the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans! We made 3 distinct and moving performances in 3 different community spaces: Trinity Community Church, the Ashe Center, and the Tekrema Center for the Arts. Through the most amazing process that honored the value in each participant, that acknowledged and challenged the role of race and privilege in our art making practices, and that allowed the process to be as important as the end goal, we made performances that were rich, full, and surprising. I cannot say how much the Summer Leadership Institute has changed me in unexpected ways. Amara and I are back in Berkeley and gearing up for "From the Field to the Table." We can't wait to share the UBW Leadership Institute process with you. Check out how to sign up for the project here in Berkeley! Signing off, Lisa

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Place Matters

This is my seventh day in Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute and all the people working at the Tekrema site today were truly inspirational. The whole of the group, working on the horizontal rather than the vertical plane of human connection, made such interesting and rich contributions to the project. Paloma McGregor (we are so lucky that she will be working with us in TDPS in "From the Field to the Table!) and Roscoe Reddix are guiding the process of making a site specific performance piece at the Tekrema Center for the Arts, and they are doing so with such masterful sensitivity. It is really otherworldly to experience a community art making practice that is this rich and rewarding. Why is that? Why have we lost the ability to create, commune, and trust one another as full human beings who have contributions to make to the whole? Why don't we value more art practices that respect the humanity in each of us? What have we lost in the name of "excellence" - in the name of individualism first and community last? Why is it that so often "community work" is a code name for poor black folks in need of "outreach" programming? Let's look deeper into this - Soul Deep.

Well, today we were steeped in place - the Lower 9th Ward in the city of New Orleans at the Takrema Center for the Arts. What a magical and spiritual place to create art! A magnificent thundershower came rumbling and raining its way through the afternoon as we worked in this amazing place. It is an old hardware store that has a deep history that is tied to segregation practices in New Orleans. (I will post the details in tomorrows blog.) This fantasic arts center was once a home as well, upstairs rooms were used as the private residence areas for the owners and the downstairs rooms stored and showcased the goods for sale. The old Cypress walls have withstood many floods, including the most recent and devastating one - Hurricane Katrina.

The gardens in the back are burgeoning with young vegetable plants and newly planted fruit trees. Three friendly chickens roam the yard and love to eat our watermelon rinds. Cottage style wood doors open up to the outside at various locations downstairs creating an old-world feeling of permeability to the outdoor spaces. Upstairs the front balcony hearkens back to prosperous times when the French controlled this city. Today we worked hard in the space and threw our creative ideas into the vessel we call process. Tomorrow we will make decisions and fine tune the piece. The result will be an interactive theater experience filled with the unexpected as audience members roam between the rooms stringing together their own stories and thinking about the theme "Soul Deep - Why are People Poor?"

Signing out Lisa

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Building Trust

Well it has been another amazing two days!
The Summer Leadership Institute process, which we will parallel in the project "From the Field to the Table", is a life altering experience. Over the past two days we have talked about, and worked through, the very difficult subject of undoing racism. Participants have exposed vulnerabilities and been witness to incredible personal testimony. We have addressed how continued stress on folks who are being oppressed can manifest in the body and impact more than just the individual. We are in the process of healing by realizing that if one of us in the group is hurting we are all hurting. Like the Cypress groves here in New Orleans, that are a rhizome, we are all inter-connected and dependent on one another. Tomorrow we re-convene at our site, the Tekrema Center for the Arts, and begin making our site specific work, and we are doing so from an enlivened place. My fellow participants and I have built deep trust and are now ready to get to work making a performance! As Jawole Willa Jo Zollar keeps reminding us "You have to go slow to go fast."

Another Urban Bush Women Core Value: Build Trust Through Process

Monday, July 23, 2012

How does New Orleans relate to "From the Field to the Table?"

For those of you who are wondering what I am doing in New Orleans with the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute this blog should give you some ideas, check out the "about" section. I am here, with TDPS dance faculty member Amara Tabor-Smith (former UBW member and Associate Director of the company) to work through the UBW process of community engagement. UBW has been leading Summer Leadership Institutes since 1997. Read more here: http://www.urbanbushwomen.org/about_sli.php. Part of what we are doing is preparing for the TDPS project "From the Field to the Table," but I am also here to deepen my art making practices and my work within the University.

So, we have now been in New Orleans for 2.5 days working with the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute. It has been an amazing so far! On 7/20, the first day of the Institute there were heavy rains which made it difficult to get across the Tulane University campus, where the Institute is being held, but I did make it to the opening event which was full of introductions, stories, singing, and performance.

On July 21st we started off the day with movement and song and then we visited the Tekrema Arts Center located in the Lower 9th Ward, located near the area that was the most impacted by the flooding during Katrina. This vibrant and alive institution is a community partner with the UBW Summer Leadership Institute. At the end of our 10 days collaborating together we will perform a site specific piece within the Tekrema Arts Center utilizing the research and ideas that we have gathered. The day ended with an inspiring dinner at the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery http://www.goldenfeatherneworleans.com/# featuring traditional Louisiana style dishes. After dinner Mardi Gras Indian Chief Shaka Zulu, and founder of the Golden Feather, shared Mardi Gras Indian and New Orleans history and stories. Later we danced to traditional Mardi Gras Indian music until sweat poured down our faces. It was a day never to be forgotten.

On July 22nd was another rich and full day that began with movement practices and community making. We then experienced the first day of a workshop entitled "Undoing Racism," which was led by People's Institute for Survival and Beyond co-Founder Ron Chisom and Dr. Kimberly Richards. http://www.pisab.org/who-we-are The workshop was so enlightening and so full of new and inspiring ideas I cannot wait to share what I have learned and put into practice what I have learned too! We have one more day of that workshop tomorrow and I really cannot wait to see where the conversation goes. Later that night we had a cultural exchange. Each participant in the project spoke about a personal story and shared an object that was placed on an offering table. The people participating have so much to share about their lives, their ancestors, their histories, and about being alive in the world. It was a moving night to say the least.

Tomorrow is going to be a very full day. I am up way too late! We will attend the "Second Line" for the famous New Orleans musician 'Uncle' Lionel Batiste. There will be hundreds if not thousands of people marching in the second line. I am excited to experience this once in a lifetime event. Uncle Lionel was a very special and revered figure within New Orleans. I am also excited to learn more about New Orleans and the fertile, painful, and beautiful history that lives in this place.

"Place Matters," One of the six Urban Bush Women Core Values

Signing off,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Getting Information Posted

We are excited to have just added some very useful information to the blog. Check out how to participate in this exciting new project "From the Field to the Table!"